I don't walk around announcing the fact that Miles (4) and Asher (2) don't watch TV, but if the subject comes up, I answer honestly.
Even so, one doctor rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah right, Mom. He's an American child, I know he watches television."
I retorted with a high-pitched, "I unplugged them!" (Because that's a perfectly normal thing to say.)
He still didn't believe me.
Many of you know that we chose to "unplug" last spring. (We'll see how it goes in the depths of a frigid Minnesota winter, but for now we're sticking to it.)
You may also remember that the catalyst for this change was due to my inability to achieve the ever-elusive moderation I was striving for. Some mothers can do just that...moderate screen time. I am not one of them. So when I had a very helpful email conversation with my friend Debbie of Suburb Sanity months ago, and she mentioned that her kids were off TV/video games when they were small, something in me just clicked. It hit me that, for our family, it's an all or nothing kind of deal.
We went with nothing. Shut it off. Keep it off.
I was terrified.
So I'm relieved and maybe even excited to say that this whole unplugging thing is going very well. Even Miles, who asked can I watch a show at least 3,459 times in the first three days unplugged, is surprisingly totally cool with it now.
Before I go on, I must remind you that my blog is a guilt-free zone. Guilt has never served any other purpose for me personally than to keep me stuck in a rut, feeling all shameful and self-loathing and continuing a vicious cycle while I mope. Not good. So you aren't allowed to feel guilty either. If your kiddos are watching TV and playing video games, I don't judge that for a second. Are you kidding? That would just be silly. My boys used to watch way too much PBS and Disney channel while I walked around in circles not really getting anything done, so who am I to judge? (Besides, there are a number of other things I want to quit or start and have not succeeded, so please remember we're all on this bumpy parenting ride together, doing it differently, and that's OK.)
Alrighty then...what was I saying?
Oh yes. I was terrified, but instead of imploding, the boys absolutely blew my mind with their response to unplugging:
-They became more creative with their time in what seemed like an instant.
-They found other ways to self-soothe when tired, hurt, or bored.
-They started playing together in a way they never had before, making up new games and appearing to actually enjoy each other's company. (New for them.)
-And lastly, I became more willing to go on adventures and come up with new ideas for things to do. After all, what else could I do? This means I sacrifice more of my own screen time (ahem) than I used to, which is a good thing too.
I don't believe turning off the TV magically makes all of the above happen, but through our experience, I know that it helped.
September 20-September 26 is the second week each year that gives families a chance to do a trial run at turning off the TV for national Turnoff Week through the Center for Screen Time Awareness.
I am not going to tell you to give unplugging/cutting back a try just for this week and all that stuff. You'll do that if you feel like it's right for your family and the right time, you don't need my advice.
What I will tell you is that if you've been giving screen time some thought, wanting to unplug or cut back but feeling a little scared, think of me. If I can do it, you can do it. Believe me, self control is not my strong suit, yet somehow we're still doing this.
If you're looking for more information about the effects of screen time, you might really like this book:
The Case for Make Believe arrived in the mail the very week we unplugged. It helped me stick to our decision, and continues to be a good resource for me. Since I'm lacking in self control, I like to keep it out where I can see it.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to hook this book to a hat on my head, letting it dangle in front of my face this winter. We'll be cooped up, so I realize staying unplugged is going to be a lot harder than it was this summer. But we're going to give it our best shot, because it's working. For us. So it's good.